Happy “Inspire Your Heart With Art” Day!

Happy “Inspire Your Heart With Art” Day everyone! As I’ve told you before, I love holidays – I mean really love them. There is always that slight letdown after the marathon of nonnstop holiday excitement from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years … Who knew there was this fun little holiday to tide us over until Valentine’s Day and Easter? I cannot believe I just learned of its existence this year … !

What a perfect opportunity to send some inspiration out into the world through sharing what my students have worked on throughout the beginning third of my first full semester as program coordinator for Express Yourself Artshop at Creative 360. My students pretty much feel like family members at this point, and I know I mention them a lot. But, for those new to the blog, Express Yourself Artshop is an inclusive arts and wellness program open to all students, including those with physical, mental, and psychological challenges.

I’ve worked with the program as an instructor since it was first established, and I am blown away by seeing how each student has grown since we first met a little over 2 years ago. Without further ado …

A snapshot of our amazing watercolor class! Everyone has such different styles and interests, so it is fun to see what each student comes up with.

Next, the gallery of Heather D.! I call this student and friend my “artistic soulmate” because we share a love of fashion, big eyed girls, and everything retro and vintage inspired.

Our classes are not all about art for your walls. Tons of cool functional and awesome looking wares are being created in our Woodshop class this semester as well. I love this log cabin inspired bird house, I think because it reminds me so much of childhood Lincoln Logs!

It is so much fun to be able to decorate your home with handmade pieces that are unique, and that no one else will have. You don’t have to be what people think of as a traditional “artist” to do it. The top two pieces, by Colleen D. and Amber E., are canvases wrapped in fabric with a cutout from an art print collaged overtop. The wreath below can be created easy and stress free with any medium sized to large craft punch, a wreath form, a free afternoon, and a lot of hot glue sticks handy.

Proud smiles!

Creating, whether your goal is to become a world famous artist or just to calm your mind and relieve some stress, is a HUGE confidence booster. It is also an important tool of communication and self expression, speaking from experience myself. I challenge all of you to try to make at least one thing today, even if it is just a doodle. Happy inspiration!

 

 

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Artists To Know: Fashion Is Danger.

I am an odd mix of being that very low maintenance person (I wake up 30 minutes before I have to be out the door in the morning, 15 for looking pretty 15 for eating breakfast) who is super into fashion and style. I’ve mentioned before, I seriously considered going into fashion design earlier in life, before I discovered that sewing machines were not my friend. In 4th grade, I even started a fashion club amongst a group of friends. We all hated sports, and would stay indoors at recess to work on our magazine featuring all original hand drawn designs. Any group correspondence would be typed in Wingdings font in the computer lab to avoid trade secrets escaping before the next volume of our zine was published.

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Not to be confused with this coexisting 1990s era fashion club. ❤ Daria

Though I’m an artsy person, people are generally surprised when they find out how interested in fashion I actually am. I went in blind for a roommate freshman year of college, and got assigned to a girl who actually tevoed America’s Next Top Model and saved it to watch incognito the weekends I went home so I wouldn’t know, because she, I quote, was afraid I would judge her. Until I found out, that is, and was like nah, I watch that show too. Then viewings became a roomie ritual. I’ve honestly never understood why fashion gets downgraded into the position of being a shallower art form. Fashion turns people into living, breathing, sculptures. Yes, aesthetically inspiring clothes aren’t a necessity to life, but is the newest smartphone really either? Plenty of things people create aren’t nessecary, but why live like cavemen or puritans? If something brings joy or interest or the ability for self expression to another’s life, then that’s reason enough for its creation.

Due to my sewing machine phobia, my one stint in the fashion world was at a discount bridal shop. I didn’t know the difference between an empire and an a-line, I had the audacity to suggest a full figured client try a mermaid dress, I don’t get mushy about weddings, and I’m fairly certain my manager had a voodoo doll of me hiding somewhere in her desk. So, I’ve stuck to being an appreciator, and my own personal stylist. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorites out there in the fashion world, true artists all.

That is, after this short Flight of the Conchords video from which I ripped the stunning title of this post.

 

Mana – Moi-même-Moitié

I went through an intense period of obsession with Japanese visual Kei bands. For those of you unaware of what that is, you are not alone, and never fear! I am here to educate you. Visual Kei has been a pretty big subculture in Japan since the 80s, and bands have a personal aesthetic and performance style characterized by heavy makeup, elaborate hairstyles and costumes, and androgynous aesthetics – all good things in my book. The most famous is Mana of bands Malice Mizer and Moi Dix Mois. In addition to being quite the guitarist, he is also a fashion designer. His brand, Moi-même-Moitié, was a major force in popularizing the gothic lolita clothing style in Japan. He is famous for modeling his own designs and not speaking in public, like at all. I have to say, I admire his self awareness – Guess what, I want to get to wear all the cool stuff I make, so I’m going to model it. Other times I’ll just wear a suit, depends on my mood. You know what else? Talking to most people is a complete bore, so guess what? Not gonna do it. If you look at all into the history of fashion, many things that are now considered women’s styles started out as men’s styles and vice versa. For all those who get their panties in a bunch over that sort of thing, it’s all just long term fads that then create social norms, and it will change again.

Alexander McQueen

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McQueen is so well known and revered in the fashion world that to have him on this list seems too obvious, but I couldn’t help myself. The surrealism! The whimsy! The kaleidoscope reptile printed fabric!

New York Couture

All of this handmade apparel by New York Couture on etsy looks like it was designed by a 6 year old, then skillfully handcrafted and I love it. Sadly, it’s a bit out of my price range but were I a rich woman, I would rock that owl dress at every occasion.

Madeline Stuart

This inspirational model is 18 years old and wants to change the world. As a professional model with down syndrome, she wants to change the conversation around disability and beauty, and help people to realize that “down syndrome is a blessing, something to be celebrated”. This awesome lady is certainly without limitation, and has already accomplished so much at her young age. She has walked in New York Fashion week, and is the face of cosmetics company Glossigirl. I’m digging the Ariel themed dress.

Role Models Not Runway Models

Carrie Hammer began her Role Models Not Runway Models campaign to highlight women who shake up the traditional images of beauty we are used to seeing on runways, and who are known for more than just being gorgeous (which of course, they all are). They are activists, disability advocates, doctors … In most runway shows, the women are supposed to recede into the background and let the clothes speak. Carrie Hammer was brave enough to let women with stories model her clothing, knowing that their voices would enhance, not detract from her creations. You can visit the above link to meet all of her amazing models.

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“Fashion is so close in revealing a person’s inner feelings and everybody seems to hate to lay claim to vanity so people tend to push it away. It’s really too close to the quick of the soul.” – Stella Blum

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” – Virginia Woolf

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” – Bill Cunningham

Short, Sweet, and Full Of Eye Candy

I’ve been working on and off on the next piece in my new series, and wanted to give you an early sneak peek. There really is something to coloring in repetitive geometric shapes, because it was so incredibly therapeutic to begin coloring in the hexagonal pattern filling in the figure’s hair. Adult coloring books are becoming overwhelmingly popular for a reason!

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I also have posted my first piece completed in this series for sale in print form on my redbubble and ebay shops.

One last exciting tidbit this week, I sold this fun, textured octopus mixed media on canvas in my ebay shop! He has been packaged with love and sent off to Ohio. Prints always sell with far more regularity than originals do, so when an original does get snatched up it is always thrilling. I plan to make more of these mixed media pieces featuring other animals as well in the future (So far, I’m 2 for 2 with the octopi. They are one of my favorite animals, I can’t help it!) To learn about my mixed media process for creating texture, check out my previous blog entry where I explain my work step by step.

I told you it was going to be short and sweet! It has been a busy couple of weeks, but I have continued to find time here and there to work on my new piece – my sanity may or may not depend on it ;).

 

Art As A Tool For Expression

I had the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in awhile last night, so I thought it was a good time to reconnect with everyone. My lack of continuous rest can usually be attributed to one of three things:

A. Keeping myself awake having imaginary conversations with people in my day to day existence that will never happen in real life.

B. Making lists on various topics that I will never remember in the morning anyway.

C. Being kept awake by the sound of air molecules gently bumping into each other, even through my earplugs. Seriously, I am the auditory equivalent of “The Princess And The Pea”.

It was also the first week of a new semester at Express Yourself Artshop, which brings a lot to do and think about, so item B in particular was happening a lot ;).

It will be my first full semester as program coordinator after being involved as an instructor for a little over 2 years, and the fascinating idea of art as a tool for self expression is something that one is immediately confronted with the moment they enter the classroom.

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Many great thinkers and creators of all types have spoken on the importance of creatively expressing oneself, but rather than posting a list of 20 quotes or articles, I’d rather share with you through personal experience. Yes, I am an artist, but no, you don’t have to be to use something musical or visual or written to release whatever you are holding back. Often times, through written words or sketches is the only time anyone is afforded the opportunity to see our true selves, the selves we know we are on the inside that look so much different from others’ perceptions of us. It is why I panic whenever anyone I don’t know too well asks if they can look at my sketchbook. It’s not some temperamental artist thing where I am like “No, but it’s not beautiful yet! I can’t possibly reveal my rough beginnings!” It is because it reveals a 100% transparent view of my every thought and emotion, and that can be a bit embarrassing.

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Transparency, 2012, Watercolor and Ink

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up. Even through early high school, I would often go through an entire day without speaking a single word. I’d go home after school and my mouth would have that yucky stale, dry feeling like when you wake up in the morning, because I had literally not used my vocal chords for around 7+ hours. Then of course, lovely acquaintances would ask the oh-so-helpful question,”Why are you quiet all the time? Is there something wrong with you?” which made me want to clam up even more. If people already thought I was odd, God forbid I should open my mouth! Then they’d really have something to talk about. I knew that the person I was presenting to the world wasn’t the real me. I was actually pretty damn opinionated and strong-willed from a young age (I think in one of our garage sales I saw that my mom actually had a parenting book called something like “The Strong Willed Child”, meant to advise parents in coping with this particular sort of, ahem, “gift”). I had ideas and interests and things to say, and I hated the fact that others may see me as dull or demure, but I couldn’t break through this seemingly invisible force that held me captive. That is where I turned to art, my sketches being anything but safe, quiet, or boring.

When I look back, my frustration with the self imposed isolation that I didn’t know how to navigate around is encapsulated in these visual expressions. Figures are often shown bound, missing one of their senses with eyes hidden or mouths literally sewn shut, or rendered immobile in an isolated environment.

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With Opened Eyes, Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

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Patches, Tears, and Loud Noises ; Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

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Of The Sea, Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Timebound, Prismacolor Pencil, 2006

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Frozen, Prismacolor Pencil, 2006

 

Though emotionally painful at the time, I luckily connected with a few good friends junior and senior year who struggled similarly and could understand what I was going through, something that I couldn’t explain since it was all internal. This, coupled with going off to college and being forced into uncomfortable and unknown situations in which I would have to communicate out of necessity, helped me adapt and change, growing away from this extreme anxiety. Did it completely disappear? No, but it greatly lessened. Within the last couple of years I have also found that when I have a purpose to my communication and am passionate about what I am sharing, such as with art instruction, no matter how large the group of strangers may be my fears disintegrate (Ask me to talk about menial conversation fillers like the weather or how my day is going, and we may have a problem. I always say I prefer “big talk” 😉 ). Not all are so lucky. Some individuals are permanently nonverbal due to developmental disorders or injury. For them, finding alternate means of communication is not just therapeutic but necessary.

I am going to close with another Kurt Vonnegut quote that I’ve probably shared before, because it’s that good:

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By expressing ourselves creatively whether the result is a masterpiece or not, we are not only helping ourselves, but are touching others positively as well. Through making oneself vulnerable, we “give permission” to others to do the same. We all think we’re the only one; the only one who thinks _________, the only one who feels _______, the only one who has experienced ________, when the truth is most likely we are not, everyone else is just too scared to say how they really feel. I can’t count how many people have looked at the piece below and simply said, “Yeah, I know the feeling …”

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The Rush Hour, Prismacolor Pencil, 2014

Of this next piece, viewers have commented that looking at the work was actually uncomfortable because they could feel her claustrophobia. They understood the feeling of being confined and held back, of feeling like you have outgrown your current life or situation, of wanting to move and change while everything and everyone around you is staying the same. Everyone experiences feelings like this, there is just this unspoken rule that you don’t talk about it.

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Actually, It Is This World That’s Too Small; Mixed Media, 2014

You don’t always have to be expressing negative emotions, either. A student in Express Yourself Artshop’s Painting Exploration class this week wanted to tell a story about bright colors, music, and dance with her piece, and made a modern art version of a dancer playing the flute, referenced from an old painting from an art history book that she had found and connected with right away. Another tried painting for the first time, and chose to celebrate her favorite colors and the things that make her happy, like gardens. Besides aiding in dealing with difficult emotions, de-stressing and joy are two other side effects of self expression through art.

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Artist : Colleen D.

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Artist : Michelle D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just pick up a pencil and play … you may be surprised what comes out, or whom you connect with and inspire along the way.

 

 

 

 

New Work : January

Happy 2016 Everyone!

Since I took a year off after showing at Art Prize in 2014, I have been trying to come up with another big idea to enter in 2016. For Art Prize, you kind of have to go big or your art will get lost among the crowd. The problem is, I hate working large. I’ve tried, but it’s just not as fun for me. I like the intimacy of smaller pieces that you really have to step right up to to acknowledge all the finer details. I also can’t imagine limiting myself to just one subject or image. With art, I tend to zoom around from one idea to another like a little bee who has accidentally found its way into someone’s cup of espresso. Because of this, I knew I wanted to do another series of smaller pieces hung together for impact. Another thing I have to be careful of, as with any artist, is falling prey to the “Master of None” syndrome. Master of None : Great television show, death when used to describe an artist’s body of work. After kicking around (and half starting) a variety of different ideas, I decided to stick to the conceptual portraits I have been developing over the last two years rather than trying a style that I like, but haven’t spent much time with. I will be doing a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences.

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A new piece will be released each month, with an accompanying title, “She Is ________________”.

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January – She Is Far Away

As with much of my other portrait work, I find my inspiration in nameless antique photographs. The simple, faded photos tell me a story, which I then bring to life in my mixed media drawings. I was drawn to a photo of a young girl, her hair piled and molded into an elaborate, fashionable sculpture, draped in a fine, silken dress an adult would surely appreciate, but that did not look like it was very conducive to play. Her eyes had a far off look to them. Her expression was a mixture of bored and melancholy, but to me it even looked like she was trying to hide these negative emotions to remain neutral and pleasant for the camera.

In “January”, her traveling thoughts are personified as children’s drawings on a crumpled piece of notebook paper, flowing from her mind. Though she has been made up to look like a miniature adult, the very model of sophisticated fashion, her imagination dreams the dreams of children: dinosaurs, astronauts, rocket ships, and animal creatures of the air and sea. These thoughts are purposefully camouflaged into the rest of the image, the colors so paled and harmonious the viewer almost doesn’t notice. What does stand out is the heavy grid work of the window behind and the bold, contrasting pattern of the adjacent curtains. She is closed in, separated from the free, bright winter landscape outdoors, hidden behind frosted windowpanes.

How often are children treated like dolls, especially young girls? I mean last week, I was at the mall and I saw sparkly high heels for babies. You heard that right, high heels for beings that haven’t even entirely learned how to walk yet. Let me know how that works out. The words we use to describe them are even descriptors we would use for dolls : pretty, cute, adorable, beautiful … Now, there is nothing wrong with compliments, nothing wrong with telling someone they look nice. However, as parent Sharon Holbrook states in her  Washington Post article Little Girls Don’t Need To Be Told They’re Beautiful, “The more I talk about beauty and looks, even in a positive way, the more I’m conveying the importance of those things.” Disproportionately young girls are complimented for their looks, while young boys are complimented for their performance. The thing is, looks change, and by emphasizing “prettiness” over all other traits, girls can be set up for poor confidence in the future. When girls feel that their value lies in how they look, it limits their perception of their own potential, and they will even start to limit the activities they engage in for fear that they will look “bad” or “ugly” while trying a new activity. I am a big fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and think it is just about one of the coolest organizations out there right now. This concept is behind Smart Girls’ Get Your Hair Wet campaign, encouraging young girls to live life the fullest, be open to trying new things, and focus on the experience itself rather than worrying about how you look while doing it. I remember being a kid, and seeing some of my female classmates refuse to get into the pool in swim class because they “don’t look cute with wet hair”, or not wanting to play tag at recess on a hot day because they might get sweaty and “look ugly”. Do you think any 9 year old boys were out there worrying about being sweaty???

All in all, it all comes down to a vocabulary adjustment, and complimenting girls on things that they actually have control over, rather than things gifted to them in the great lottery of nature. It comes down to being mindful, complimenting a young girl (or adult woman for that matter) on the creative way she put together the awesome outfit she is wearing, or the great smile she has when she gets excited about something. It also comes down to treating kids like kids; holding them back from trying to grow up too fast, letting them get messy, letting them wear things that might look insanely goofy, and allowing them to hold onto that complete lack of self-consciousness that comes with being a kid for as long as humanly possible.